Policy Opportunities to Increase Cover Crop Adoption on North Carolina Farms
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Cover cropping is an agricultural practice that produces on-farm benefits while contributing to broader public sustainability goals. However, barriers to farmer adoption of cover crops remain poorly understood. This study seeks to determine the relative importance of the barriers that farmers overcome to adopt cover crops in North Carolina and identify the resources that enable their success. We implemented an email survey of NC farmers to gather quantitative data about cover crop use and preferences, supplemented by qualitative interviews with experts on cover crop adoption to determine the influence of policies on farmers’ decision to implement cover crops. Our data show that farmers in NC overcame three broad categories of challenges to adopt cover crops: agronomic, input costs, and knowledge transfer. The level of these challenges varies depending on farm size and income, age of farmer, farming experience, and whether information to plant cover crops was obtained through extension, farmer networks, or private industry. Timing, in particular, was a challenge for farmers regardless of their demographic characteristics. We recommend a holistic policy approach that strengthens diverse types of knowledge sharing through on-farm demonstration, bolsters farmer incentives using existing cost-share programs, and invests in applied research to develop varieties that are more easily incorporated into a cash crop rotation.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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